When it comes to brave new worlds, China is a cut ahead of the rest right now. Now that cash is almost a thing of the past and the complete integration of life to a mobile device is almost complete, it is definitely a world newer than most modern western societies. The bravery, however, is as ironic as ever. The decision to enter this new world would seem to be driven simply by the desire to combine and simplify. And when you look at how complicated life has been in this modern age and how the technology of today could make it sweep away so many of the hassles, who wouldn't? Think about the following hassles:
- remembering passwords
- different loyalty programs
- payments for all the different utilities
- security checks at airports
- entering competitions
- queuing at checkouts and for medical care
- paying at petrol stations
- filling in applications
- changing currency
- paying tolls
- splitting restaurant bills
- renewing subscriptions or memberships
- different apps for services such as uber, expedia, etc.
And you take them all and make them simple decisions in one place. Wouldn't that be lovely! In China this has been done or is being done with WeChat and, to a degree, Alipay. I had a taste of this in China before I left but it has leaped ahead even further. Before I left, it was easy to find restaurants in the area with a promotion, buy a voucher ("Pay 80 yuan for a 100 yuan voucher") go there with friends and split the bill without much effort at all. We'd just flick our money with WeChat wallet. No awkward breaking of dollar bills at the counter. No exchanging of account numbers. We were pretty "slow adopters" and there were already things we were missing out on. Now apparently you can navigate most days without cash or cards. If only it could do the washing up.
In the west, we have too many quite justified scruples around this kind of integration. Even with the current range of apps, we are unnerved by the sharing of information and the accumulation of Big Data. What happens if the credit card company knows about my personal life? What about the insurance company? Governments have a problem with it regarding antitrust and competition. In the article I linked at the top, it shows that in China even further integration into life to cover almost all of the things above and more. People have chosen to take the lazy leap of faith to surrendering their entirety to be relieved in part of the hassle of everyday complicated life. As for antitrust and competition, the Chinese state has always been happy with being the only "party" in town.
WeChat has been since 2011 but Blogger.com where I publish has been around since 1999, with my use of it as my primary place for posting thoughts starting in 2004. So last year made the end of my fourteenth year describing my life and thoughts. I'm quite proud of this because I was a terribly inconsistent diary user. During a clean-up of old possessions I probably found about 20 different books which I'd used like diaries, where notes were written if only I could decipher them or relate them back to a context. Blogs are good because unlike twitter and texts, they have body and lure you into elaboration. The nature of my blogs has changed markedly. I Last year I published 34 posts which was my highest since 2009. Although being in China and being cut off from the blogger.com website probably lowered my rate of publishing (blogger.com is blocked by the Great Firewall but I could still post via e-mail) I generally published as things came to me. 2017 was big because of running and also because of more work-related issues and thoughts.
I may as well double purpose this blog to record in the beginning of 2018 how I use technology on a daily basis for future reference. As for most people, I use on my mobile device:
- Text-based and audio-based messaging (WeChat/Messenger/WhatsApp/Line)
- Maps to calculate best routes based on traffic conditions (Maps)
- A running app to work out how far and fast I run (Strava)
- Currency checking (xe.com)
- Sports results and text commentary (cricinfo.com)
- Audio and video entertainment (Youtube, iHeartRadio and Podcasts)
- Weather forecasts (MetService)
- Health (HeartRateFree, Pacer)
- Banking (ASB)
- Petrol price checking (Gaspy)
- Dictionary (Pleco)
- Hotels and flights (Expedia)
- Paying for gas (BPMe)